Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and appalled by the death of C.Sugumaran, 40 – all the more shocking and appalling since he was publicly beaten to death while still handcuffed. Despite public outcry, the police have claimed he died from a heart attack and have now proposed that a judicial inquest be set up to determine the cause of death.
The inquest proposal must be rejected, simply because this process has proven to be cumbersome and ineffective. On the other hand, the authorities normally welcome an inquest as it is a useful delaying tactic to placate public protest while in time, the parties involved – the inquiring Magistrate, police, Attorney-General’s Chambers and the medical authorities (which provided medical assistance/ conducted post-mortem) will down play evidence and cover up the killing.
Such unholy alliance have led to “open verdicts” in many inquiries which simply meant that the cause of death was unclear and therefore no one can be held responsible, e.g. in the case of R. Gunasegaran who was killed at the Sentul police station in July 2009 – no policemen were found culpable even though there were eyewitnesses to the brutal beatings that led to his death. See also Dinesh Darmasena’s inquest which has not even started even though he was gunned down in cold blood more than five months ago.
Needless to say, an inquest is not a substitute for a competent and independent criminal investigation. Why call for an inquest when the perpetrators are known and there is adequate evidence to bring a criminal prosecution for murder or at a very least manslaughter? In this case, there are eyewitnesses who have come forward to say Sugumaran was chased down, handcuffed, smeared with turmeric and beaten to death by police personnel.
According to the Home Minister in Parliament, from 2000 to August 2012, 207 persons have died in police custody. But yet there is little or no accountability, transparency or any real investigations and no inquest has found a single policeman culpable for causing the death of any detainees. So why should Sugumaran’s case be subjected to an inquest?
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty
28 January 2013